Sufjan Stevens Records with Asthmatic Kitty

You hang around the BoFN crew long enough, you start picking up their habits.

Like, let’s suppose Fannie or Kerbey wrote about Sufjan Stevens, who has a recording label called Asthmatic Kitty. They definitely wouldn’t just let that just slip by. Oh, no. They’d stick it in the title to make it all witty and cryptic and everything.

So you can’t blame me for the title. I’m just a product of my environment.

By the way, I just remembered Frank Zappa had the Barking Pumpkin label.

For whatever that’s worth.

Anyways, a buddy of mine introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, whose awesome last name more than compensates for the ordinary last one.

Two questions: First, should be there a Funny Name Theorem for that?

Second, should I rethink the title? For instance:


Like Cat Stevens but with Asthma

Or am I dating myself? (Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, as it were . . .)

To tell the truth, the comparison with Cat Stevens nags at me. What do you call it when two lives run not parallel, but kind of criss-cross, like an X shape. They both start from opposite places but end up somewhere in the vicinity of where the other one started.

The great Cat Stevens, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, was a multi-instrumentalist who created soothing but haunting ballads–a singer-songwriter in the best wandering bard tradition. He eventually converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam.

What about Sufjan Stevens? Wikipedia reports that

Sufjan is an Arabic name, meaning “comes with a sword”. It predates Islam and most famously belonged to Abu Sufyan, a figure from early Islamic history. The name was given to Stevens by the founder of Subud, an inter-faith spiritual community to which his parents belonged when he was born.

So, Sufjan starts out with the Islamic heritage (in name at least) and became the balladeer, the bard, the storyteller, the chronicler of people and places. (One of his projects is to make an album for each of the US states.)

There’s also a nuanced but substantial Christian undercurrent in his songs.

Sufjan’s music virtually defines that whispering, lilting, haunting millennial sound we hear everywhere these days. I confess, it’s not my thing, and I’m still trying to understand it. But I like “Seven Swans.”

At any rate, Sufjan is a prodigiously gifted fellow. He’s also worked through his massive output with integrity, without aggrandizement, and with no apparent signs of drug and alcohol fueled revels in smashed up hotel rooms with the obligatory spiral into wasted degenerate freak/victim of the music industry.

But it may just be logistics. Wikipedia also reports,

A multi-instrumentalist, Stevens is known for his use of the banjo, but also plays guitar, piano, drums, xylophone, and several other instruments, often playing all of these on his albums through the use of multitrack recording. While in school, he studied the oboe and English horn, which he also plays on his albums.

That’s way too many instruments to douse with lighter fluid.

Speaking of lighter fluid, let’s light up a guitar for our man, Dave. Click on the link below.

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5 Responses to Sufjan Stevens Records with Asthmatic Kitty

  1. I love his name, Sufjan. Have no idea how to pronounce it, but it does make me want to snap my fingers while saying it. Great post with a great beat. 🙂

  2. beth says:

    oh how I love the twisted paths you take!

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